How to Buy an Ex-Ambulance

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Introduction: How to Buy an Ex-Ambulance

You may ask... WHY buy an ambulance? Well, many people actually buy former ambulances... and it isn't to go around faking being an emergency vehicle (highly illegal by the way).

My reason was simple. I have always wanted to do a road trip across Canada and the United States. The initial idea was to buy a Volkswagen "hippie" bus, but that dream was soon diminished after seeing how pricey the good quality ones are... not to mention trying to find spare parts if something breaks down. So I started looking elsewhere; various online buy and sell websites, the typical ones anyway. Then I was told that federal, provincial, and even municipal governments sell surplus or asset vehicles all the time, sometimes to update their fleet (the best reason) or to get rid of partially destroyed or costly repair vehicles (not so great). I was looking for cargo vans initially, when I stumbled upon some ambulances and curiousity got the best of me. Upon looking at one of these I realized... Electrical is all pretty much done for me... They are sturdy machines... Have been maintained usually every 5,000km... and they still have enough life in them to last fairly long (here in Canada the general rule is they get rid of ambulances after 10 years of service).

And so the search was on! Read on to find out how to maybe snag one of your own... :)

Step 1: Start Searching!

First step is to start searching government auction websites. I had my sights on places in Canada. Here are three right away to start looking at:

  1. govdeals.ca
  2. gcsurplus.ca
  3. bcauction.ca

Not in Canada? Not to worry! The first link has a worldwide as well as a U.S. option (although most you'll find will be in the states).

Another option is to look for government auctions near you. This is great because you might be able to get a website that is for your province, state, county or country. Another option is to actually call the government body or look through local newspapers, as governments will sometimes put advertisements of surplus sales. These usually occur in the spring or fall seasons.

Step 2: Read the WHOLE Description!

All ambulances are not created equal! You'll find that some auction websites will actually give you a lot more information than others. For example, the bcauction.ca website usually gives you everything wrong (at least that they know about). Be weary of websites that don't say anything. Your best bet, if you live near the auction lot, to go and see it in person. If you have any mechanically inclined friends, now is the time to invite them ambulance-hunting.

In my experience, I was lucky enough to get a vehicle near my hometown that had everything included, as it was one that was being sold by a College Paramedic program... they use them for driving class and scenarios. Not bad!

Step 3: Strategize Your Bids

This can be broken down in a couple of steps.

  1. Look for the terms and conditions on the website for bids. Websites like bcauction.ca have a firm deadline, and someone can outbid you with an automatic bid if you try and bid in the last minute. You'll be left scrambling in the last 30 seconds trying to refresh and set a higher price, only to be disappointed (speaking from experience)! You can also set a maximum price you are willing to spend, which sometimes is a nice feature. Some websites (like govdeals.com) have an auto-extension of 3 minutes if there is a bid in the last 3 minutes. This prevents last minute bidding, and gives an equal opportunity... so long as you are watching the bid. Other websites like gcsurplus.ca won't show the highest bid at all, and you are stuck with just submitting a price you are willing to spend, hoping that you are the top bidder. NOTE: Make sure you read all the terms! Sometimes if you are bidding for something in another country there are distinct rules, as these are usually government auctions. Buyer beware!
  2. Bid according to the terms. In the auction for the ambulance I was looking at, I had the 3 minute extension, and sure enough, someone had an automatic bid waiting to outbid me. Lucky for me though, they had a maximum they were willing to spend and probably weren't watching the last moments.
  3. Don't overinflate the price! This goes for all auction sites, no matter the terms. There is absolutely no reason to bid weeks in advance of the deadline, unless you are going somewhere remote without internet access... and you won't be there for the end. Be patient, eye on the prize, and keep refreshing!

Step 4: Win the Auction!

Congratulations! By now, you've hopefully snagged an ex-ambulance. The adrenaline is probably still pumping, so take a few moments and jump for joy, dance, and let it all out. If you didn't win, be patient, and look for another! I'm in the school of "everything happens for a reason", so maybe that one just wasn't right for you.

The steps after you've won vary by website, but usually they require payment through the website, signing the appropriate paperwork and getting your insurance and registration in order.

If you're like me, maybe you bought one that was further away. In that case, you can either try transporting it through UShip (companies and contractors alike can bid for your shipment), or search Facebook for some rideshare groups in your region. I was lucky enough to get someone who wanted to drive to Yukon and had the time, and I made an agreement to buy their return flight for them and gas costs... it was certainly cheaper than a transport truck! If you are finding someone, make sure to establish an agreement, much like a rental agreement, and suit it to your needs. You should also probably get there license details and maybe a driver's abstract. Buyer Beware!

There are also websites like hittheroad.ca that find drivers for you and act like a third party if you don't want to deal with the time and effort of finding a driver.

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142 Comments

0
orangejeans88
orangejeans88

3 months ago

Thank you so much for the info. It's exactly what I want to know!! Cheers

0
meswanson
meswanson

4 years ago

I can't believe the number of total non constructive comments. All I see are a bunch of whiners afraid of ghosts. So you think it's creepy, fine this does help the instructable one bit.

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jw-vargas
jw-vargas

Reply 4 years ago

@meswanson: "I can't believe the number of total non constructive comments"

* * * * *

Oh, hell yes!! The "people die here; no, they die there" is total nonsense and has nothing to do with buying a surplused out former ambulance.

It would be okay, I guess, but you'd have to do a bunch of body work getting rid of the emergency lights. And inside, you'd have a major remodelling. So, in my mind at least, you'd have to buy it cheap, to offset the costs of inside/outside retro fits.
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upnorthrick
upnorthrick

Reply 8 months ago

People are going to recognize it for what it was and hopefully admire the creative touches that transitioned it into what it is. It would be more trouble than it is worth to make the holes from lights disappear, especially on an aluminum mod. Make up simple cover plates or, even easier, paint the lenses.

The red running and white scene lights on the raised fiberglass roof of our van are close enough together I believe one could cut them out and put in an RV type window unit.

0
upnorthrick
upnorthrick

Tip 8 months ago on Step 4

Try contacting a dealer about buying one of their trade ins. Our city recently traded in our 15 year old Ford van, despite being in great shape our dealer said there is not enough of a market for trade ins to cover the overhead involved with reselling them. We offered it to one of our non emergency agencies for the trade in allowance but it did not fit their needs. It was bound for a wrecking yard that parts out commercial vehicles.

You might start by getting to know some of your local EMS people, if you are shy attend a community relations public relations/awareness event. Event if your local agency is not trading anything in any time soon they may be able to break the ice with a dealer.

0
BL14
BL14

5 years ago

I wouldn't want to sleep in a vehicle where who knows how many people have died in.

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upnorthrick
upnorthrick

Reply 8 months ago

We can declare patients on scene but once underway the focus is on keeping them going. There are no restless souls to hold that against you or the vehicle.

0
jw-vargas
jw-vargas

Reply 4 years ago

But yet you sleep in hotel beds? think back to all the rockers who've died of overdoses -- Janis, Morrison, Hendrix, et al.

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MichaelH60
MichaelH60

Reply 4 years ago

Nope! These were very HIGH (PUN INTENDED) dollar folk who stayed in big money, swank places that I could not afford to stay in! I'm more the Motel 6 type. I prefer staying only where the average old man died while doing a prostitute in the bed!!

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Squash
Squash

Reply 5 years ago

People rarely die in ambulances. Paramedics keep people alive until they arrive at the hospital and can get more attention. Yes, things happen but it's rare they pass in the ambulances.

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noahspurrier
noahspurrier

Reply 4 years ago

I'm OK if fewer than 50 people have died in the room I plan to sleep in, but if 50 people or more have died in there then it will creep me out and I can't sleep. This is why I can't sleep in hospitals. How do you determine how many people have died in the ambulance you plan sleep in? Do they cut a notch in the steering wheel or something? Maybe they paint a skull and cross-bones X on the side of the ambulance or something like it.

0
michael_click
michael_click

Reply 5 years ago

People die in ambulances all the time. They just aren't officially "dead" pronounced do by a doctor. Where do you think the term DOA comes from?

I had an uncle who drove an ambulace. He was called to an accident site where the victim had been decapitated. He transported the remains to the hospital rather than wait on someone from the morgue to show up. Miraculously, the victim wasn't "dead" until the doctor certified him as being so. The victim's official time of death was several hours after the time of the accident.

0
Squash
Squash

Reply 5 years ago

DOA is used by police, fire and medical on scenes of homicides and accidents all the time. That acronym doesn't necessarily come from an ambulance crew showing up at the hospital with a dead body.

0
Squash
Squash

Reply 5 years ago

So I guess the paramedics I know are just really good at their jobs. Around here, ambulances don't transport the dead. They won't even do a facility transport if they don't think the patient will make it. They are required to stop on the side of the road if the patient passes which is very rare.

The funeral home/morgue would pick up bodies. Paramedics can't render aid to a person who is already dead and rendering aid is their job. Maybe transportation of body parts was in your uncle's job description but not for any of the paramedics I know. Anyway...I was talking to BL14 and trying to calm their idea of ambulances. Your response is not positive or helpful...conditions of this website.

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RobF10
RobF10

Reply 5 years ago

"Paramedics keep people alive until they arrive at the hospital and can get more attention."

You make it sound as though paramedics are somehow magical and people will only die once handed over to less competent individuals such as consultants and surgeons. People rarely die in ambulances because they will likely spend less than 15 mins inside one. Folks rarely die in elevators but I wouldn't enter one to escape a fire simply on that knowledge. :D

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ngadhno
ngadhno

Reply 4 years ago

I don't buy coffee at Starbucks because once a man died in a Starbucks shop.

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Doc Holliday
Doc Holliday

Reply 4 years ago

Have you considered hotel rooms, homes, parks; and of course cars?

Oh, and human/animal waste and all other pollutants you're currently in-taking?

No matter, you're not producing any of these, and live in a sterile bubble.

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jwzumwalt
jwzumwalt

Reply 5 years ago

Maybe a better way of looking at it, is you are sleeping where a lot of people woke from death :) (I'm an ex firefighter)

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AlanS60
AlanS60

Reply 5 years ago

Then you might want to consider a Hearse. You can be sure no one has died in a Hearse. They are already dead before they are a passenger.

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Nic2412W
Nic2412W

Reply 5 years ago

Ok, at least one person has died in a Hearse crash before. Then, the Hearse is spirited away, refurbished, and sold on the list of craig. That must have happened at least once.